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York and the surrounding communities are filled with industries that have brought many jobs to the region. Most people – other than locals and fellow Pennsylvanians – likely don’t realize that for more than 20 years a township north of York has been home to one of the largest coffee roasting plants in the world.

Starbucks’ York Roasting Plant and Distribution Center employs more than 500 people and continues to add jobs. After Starbucks expanded the distribution center two years ago, the company expected to add another 300 jobs in the coming years.

Responsible for Employee Safety

Breadwinners of many local families work at the plant and distribution center. Their families rely on their income, and that’s why it’s critical companies such as Starbucks provide a safe workplace for employees. Like any employer, the Starbucks facility has potential workplace hazards, some of which are unique to a coffee roaster.

Among the safety measures coffee roasters such as Starbucks must focus upon include a proper ventilation system and regular air samplings during roasting and grinding procedures. Why? It’s an effort to reduce workers’ exposure to chemicals emitted during those processes.

Chemicals May Cause Severe Lung Disease

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepared a study that found higher levels of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione in the air from sources in large roasting plants. These chemicals are naturally formed during coffee-roasting and help create the taste of coffee, but health officials have concerns.

If employees inhale too much of these chemical-containing fumes, they may develop a severe lung disease known as obliterative bronchiolitis, which has similar symptoms to asthma. Federal standards require that companies such as coffee roasters have respiratory protection plans and provide personal protective equipment.

Other Potential Workplace Hazards

Other safety concerns exist at such facilities as well, and may cause injuries more typical as those that occur at other manufacturing facilities. They include:

  • Standing for long hours may contribute to lower-limb muscle fatigue and raise the risk of long-term back pain and musculoskeletal problems. Regular stretching can help combat this.
  • A significant amount of lifting boxes and repetitive stress at the shipping and receiving warehouse can cause injuries to backs, shoulders and elbows.
  • Hearing loss may occur from exposure to excessive noise.
  • Workplace accidents such as sprains, falls, slips and lacerations.

Safety should always come first in the workplace. Please take the necessary precautions to ensure that you remain safe on the job, and make sure your employer is as serious about safety as you are.